How advanced is your law firm business development strategy?

In my last blogpost I wrote about the importance of taking action for legal business development initiatives to succeed.  As I explained, taking action is the most important element to a successful legal business development initiative.  But despite its essential nature to the success of law firm business development – it’s frequently absent.  This must change if law firms want to remain competitive – as it’s almost certain, in my opinion, that traditional partnership-model law firms will never adopt sales teams in large numbers (as NewLaw firms have done). (Some experts seem to still hold out hope that traditional law firms may adopt sales divisions, but I disagree). Hence, for the foreseeable future, I believe lawyers themselves will be required to conduct the bulk of mission-critical business development activities.

Strategy is as important as action

Almost as important (or perhaps as important) as taking action – is creating and adhering to a good strategy that underpins business development action.  Without a carefully thought out strategy — a legal business development initiative is likely to either fail or produce mediocre results.

In an excellent article which appears in In House Community, Patrick Dransfield details the importance of strategy to law firm business development initiatives.  And he provides some superb recommendations on how to develop a strategy, based on his years of working in BD and mareting roles for some of the world’s most elite law firms.

Some things to keep in mind when creating a good legal BD strategy

As Patrick explains, the marketing and business development function within law firms is often not well understood.  This can lead to poorly designed and poorly executed BD initiatives. But things don’t have to be like this.  He recommends keeping in mind the following when creating a legal business development strategy:

  • “Be aware of the general business factors that are affecting your clients and potential clients – by analyzing key Macro-economic factors [impacting them]”.
  • “After you’ve analyzed the key macro-economic factors, you must ask: What impact does the above have on the firm’s practice areas and business generally?”
  • “Objectively assess [the firms]…ability to match its strengths to market needs”. 
  • “Defin[e]…[your] firm’s key competitive advantage. How does a law firm differentiate itself in the market and what are the key messages that it wants a client or potential client to know about it?”
  • “Now more than ever before, successful legal service providers need to find competitive advantage in order to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. There are thousands of really smart lawyers; so many in fact that providing quality legal services is merely a given. It is expected by clients and it does not of itself differentiate the firm…”
  • “Listen to [your clients] and ask them what services they require and then match what you have to their needs.”
  • “Nowadays a partner at a law firm needs to be a revenue producer for that firm as well as a legal expert. Both lawyers and the business development people they employ need to equip themselves with the armoury to go out and do battle.”
  • “The Axioms of this world, who employ professional sales people so that the lawyers can engage one hundred percent on what they do best – legal work”

Go beyond a simple referral-based strategy

I believe these recommendations are very useful for any lawyer or law firm leader seeking to go further than simply seeking referrals as a primary source of new business.  Most law firms generate most of their business from referrals, leaving themselves at the whims of the market and not in control of their own destiny.  But if you’d like to go further and learn how to do more than simply generate referrals – you can.  Some of the initiatives you might take I’ve blogged about here before (see my previous posts).   In a nutshell – law firms that deploy sophisticated inbound and outbound business development and marketing strategies – would render themselves as competitive as the most successful law firms in the world.

I’ve helped hundreds of lawyers create and deploy business development strategies that produce new client engagements. If you’d like to discuss how I might help you or your law firm (or both) develop a strategy to develop more business – fill out the form below to arrange a conversation.

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